There comes a time when any decent human being must immediately and unequivocally speak out against injustice. This is that time. I know my words will be ‘unpopular’ among some, but the same was the case on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
On August 21, chemical weapons were used against Al-Ghouta, a town outside Damascus, killing hundreds of civilians, although the exact number is debated–a truly horrific crime. As always, the details of the massacre are a matter of serious dispute between pro- and anti-Assad propaganda sources. This is not the first massacre of its kind in the Syrian civil war, where large numbers of civilians–including children–have been deliberately targeted for extermination. Other instances include the bombing of Aleppo university while students were in class on January 16, 2013, the Al-Houla Massacre on May 25, 2012 among others However, the scale of this most recent massacre and the use of chemical weapons finally have the Obama Administration and Secretary of State John Kerry searching for an immediate US military response agains the Assad regime. This kind of direct foreign intervention would be–at the risk of sounding redundant in light of millions of lives and trillions of dollars lost in Iraq and Afghanistan–a grave error.
There is not yet any clear or concrete evidence that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons during the course of the Syrian civil war. However, UN inspector Carla Del Ponte has publicly announced that the Syrian Rebels used Sarin gas against civilians and the Syrian national army. Del Ponte’s comments to the BBC on May 6, 2013 were largely ignored by media outlets because they do not play into war scenarios in which some governments are eager to get involved. Let me rephrase and reiterate, we do not know for sure precisely who used chemical weapons last week in Al-Ghouta. So on what legal basis can the US or any government declare war on Syria? The very real prospect that the Syrian Rebels aimed to cross Obama’s “red line” on behalf of Assad the day before UN inspectors were arrived (just like last time), and the sheer idiocy of the Assad regime doing so, should give any objective observer pause and concern. For Heaven’s sake–think!
On August 26, 2013 Foreign Policy magazine published an article proving “America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran,” referring to the Iran-Iraq war in the late 1980’s. This story comes at the very moment when we should all be seriously contemplating the moral duplicity and strategic considerations of US military intervention in the sovereign states of the region–especially on pretense of chemical weapons. Let us also not forget the phantom “Weapons of Mass Destruction” fraudulently yielded by the Bush Administration to fund the illegal, unilateral destruction of Iraq–from which it has not recovered until today.
The Obama administration’s hesitant complicity in trying to fan the flames of the Syrian civil war to protect Israel and destroy Iranian influence (and its civilians through sanctions) in the region has the potential to compete with the destructiveness of Bush’s policies. Rather than make serious attempts at a ceasefire or exert diplomatic or economic pressure on both regional backers of both sides of the conflict, US support of Syrian rebels has fueled the deadly violence and empowered terrorist groups–among other long lasting catastrophes that will be born on the backs of generations in the Middle East for decades to come.
The tragedy is that many Syrian detractors of Bush’s war on Iraq are now beating the war drums against Syria. Should the Obama Administration take any military action against Syria on pretense of punishing Assad for using chemical weapons or–sillier yet–defending the freedom of civilians it seeks to bomb, it will be walking in the steps of decades of destructive and illegal US foreign policies in the region. If we have learnt anything from Iraq, it’s that UN weapons inspectors should be left to do their job and we should never–ever–look to the US war machine for help.
I remember personally hearing from Robert S. Ford, US Ambassador to Syria, that there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict; there can only be a diplomatic one–just like Iraq.
Make no mistake, we are not talking about ending the suffering of the Syrian people, but rather a dangerous escalation after which Iranian or Russian interests would be emboldened–one that could easily spiral out of control. The use of chemical weapons in Al-Ghouta could easily be the work of either the Assad regime or Syrian rebels–both are deeply nasty groups. And if we are to look honestly at the hasty recent escalation against Syria before us today, we could only see it for what it is–a pretext for more war.